|This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.|
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest.
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It’s been a quieter, grayer and wetter week here in west Sonoma County, California. February always seems to be something of a battle between winter, which by now has served out most of the worst it has, and spring with all kinds of delicacies we could discuss. Winter is struggling to keep us chilled and damp but spring simply will not be denied it’s turn to work its magic by elbowing its way in from both the longer and warmer days and the moist soil from which all kinds of things are now coming back to life.
Today, to make this very point, I want to share a story of valiant volunteerism in the tree kingdom. Our next door neighbor has two mature ornamental cherry trees that share one of our fence lines. About three years ago, no doubt with the assistance of some bird driven by god-given instincts, a couple of these inedible cherries found their way to a very shady corner of our property where, on one of my walking tours of the backyard, I found them sprouted and growing slowly past the height of about a foot each.
Their location was not at all promising. Dense tall trees already claimed the full canopy above them and, while they would almost certainly survive, they would never thrive or become a full and beautiful and enjoyed from this darker corner of our yard. So, both needed a new home.
Transplanting volunteer plants has always appealed to me. They cost nothing other than your time and real estate and represent some kind of cooperation between myself and nature and the seasons. I have a corner of our yard that is not as private as I would like. I could go buy a tree, but examining the parent of these two sprouts, I knew they could grow to be just the right size to close off a view that one nearby neighbor could use to watch our yard from their back windows. So a plan was hatched and part one executed. First they both needed time to grow some.
One sprout was getting taller fast and by the third year had reached (perhaps too tall) the grand height of about 6 feet. This guy was singled out to be first and at the end of last winter, I arrived with a large container and shovel to dig him out with as much of the root ball as possible.
This is where things could and did start to go wrong. I had dug a fresh hole where I wanted to transplant the sprouted volunteer so it was ready with a pile of fresh smelly soil from which many spaghetti squashes now trace their own heritage. I knew the mulch would be healthy and helpful to the new guy. So, my shovel went in to start the wide circle around the sapling. I knew I was plenty wide to avoid the main tap root which almost always goes straight down, but of course, after several cutting plunges around the young tree, I hit something too solid to be good news. As these things go, once started, it’s hard to adjust and in this case I had little choice to finish the task and when I liberated the tree-lette with its attached root rich dirt clod, I found indeed, it’s tap root had gone sideways for lord-knows what reason and had be cleanly sliced off leaving less than a foot for the transplant.
After 2 years of planning and building hopes around what this tree could look like given a chance to stand and grow in partial full sunshine where it would share the sky only with 3 mature redwoods on one side, that one vital root was sliced short. I guessed this tree was not as likely to survive, but since all was ready, I decided to give it a try, a chance to pull itself back to life. Into the hole it went with plenty of mulch and water and daily attention, a fertilizer treatment in mid-summer and daily visits to encourage it along.
It weathered summer well enough and dropped all it’s leaves after showing it retained the ability to grow a few new ones and one vigorous new branch down low. Okay then. You’re still alive but winter is coming.
As I watched, and watered, and generally fussed over him, the spout was kept damp, tied back for support from our nastiest winds and today I’m pleased to let you know, after all this dendrology drama, the ties have been removed, the branches remain flexible (as opposed to stiff dead sticks) and, YES, we have new blossoms, and bees and a tree I now think has sunk it’s roots deep enough to grow, thrive and survive.
The blossoms are very small, about the size of a small thumbnail. but when a mature tree is covered with them, they’re gorgeous.
It’s nearby parent tree, an ancient thing with thick wrinkled truck and primary branches, has been trimmed back many times over the years but today stands over 15 feet tall and looks more than ready to take on the coming spring. Our little guy is now about 7 feet tall, sparely dotted with live buds so I think the experiment has been a success. It may be time to think about that unsuspecting second sprout this year.
In other news, just because I think it is so cool, I wanted to report that the local squad of red shouldered hawks are still with us, fighting back against rise of rodents and snakes and anything small enough to crawl along, be seen and carried off by these amazing birds. We have a new housing development nearby and many of the rodents who used to live unmolested in the field are now stirred up and roving about looking for new home sites themselves.
Did you listen to the clip I posted last week? Click below if not. Thy guy from Bird Watch does a great job of describing this hawk. As I walk up and down our long driveway or about the neighborhood, I can hear and sometimes see them drifting on the warm air currents, spying on the world below or zipping down and out of sight to close the deal on something beyond some fence line and crying out their special code to each other. They have brought a whole new ambience the the neighborhood. From my home, you can hear them from about a half mile away.
In other news, I tweaked my new fictional story from last week. It’s a conversation between an older man and a much younger woman with a quietly weird relationship. What I could not find earlier was a cleaner, sharper ending and a photo of the woman that would underline the strangeness of this relationship. Guys in particular, check out this photo then tell me if you agree her eyes alone are a portent to trouble.
If you enjoy unexpected twists, I hope you’ll check out my very short story titled: The Fading Fern Frond Brooch
That’s it for me this week. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be around to visit your share shortly.